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Stocks Close Higher, but Ukraine Fears Restrain Exuberance

Stocks inched up on Thursday but concerns about the situation in Ukraine muted enthusiasm over Apple's earnings and strong manufactured goods orders.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unofficially flat, while the S&P 500 added 3 points and the Nasdaq rose 21 points.

"The good thing was Apple's news. We had a mini-tech wreck here but now we're coming out of it," said Mike Serio, regional chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. The iPad maker posted better than expected quarterly results on Wednesday and also announced a 7-for-1 stock split and boosted its dividend.

Apple shares rose 8 percent. "Apple's beat alone added approximately 15 cents to S&P earnings per share, and added 0.5 percent to year-over-year growth on the S&P 500," Serio added.

But early exuberance dissipated as worries about Ukraine hit Germany's DAX equity index, which turned negative after reports quoting Russia's defense minister as saying Russian troops had begun military drills near the Ukrainian border.

Also, President Obama accused Russia of failing to live up to its commitments and warned Moscow that the United States has another round of economic sanctions "teed up."

Meanwhile the Commerce Department reported that orders for durable goods, such as toasters or aircraft, rose 2.6 percent in March, ahead of a 2 percent estimate.

But the Labor Department said more Americans than projected filed for jobless benefits last week. But analysts said the rise probably does not suggest a shift in labor market conditions as the underlying trend continued to point to strength.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for June delivery rose $6.00, or 0.4 percent, to $1,290.60 an ounce. Crude for June delivery rose 50 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $101.94 a barrel.

The dollar edged lower against other currencies and the 10-year Treasury yield dropped a basis point to 2.687 percent.